Feb 28 2008

Some generics are brand-name products in disguise

Last night, my husband and I had quite a discussion on whether some generic or private-label products are actually brand-name products in different packaging.

He said he didn’t think it would be a good idea for brand-name manufacturers to also sell their product to private label companies.

I think that’s absolutely what’s going on.

If Del Monte sells some of its product to Aldi, it’s still making money, perhaps even more than it would make if it just sold Del Monte-labeled products. Remember, Del Monte has to compete with Green Giant and other brands of canned vegetables. So, say it sells 1,000 cans of Del Monte at $0.70 each, and sells 1,000 cans to Aldi for packaging and selling at $0.20 each. They’d be making $200 more than they would if they only sold products under their brand label. It’s a larger share of the market.

When you think about it, there has to be a limited number of food manufacturers in this country. It would be too expensive for a company to have a plant for making every little product they carry on their shelves. It would be cheaper for stores to buy from an established manufacturer and package it as a generic, don’t you think?

When you buy a brand name, in many cases you’re simply paying for the marketing of the product. It costs money to run an ad campaign and distribute coupons (another form of advertising). Companies have to recoup the marketing costs by charging more for those products.

"Choosy moms choose Jif," according to the tagline in one commercial.

Oh, do they?

I’m not a choosy mom, or any kind of mom for that matter–but I choose Jif as well. Only, in the container, it’s not called Jif. It’s called "Flavorite" and is distributed by Supervalu Storebrands, Inc.

Some people are brand snobs, and wouldn’t be caught dead with a generic packaged product in their pantries.

Companies know this, and know that to reach a wider market share, they’ll have to sell a pretty brand-name product, and a generic-packaged product to people who are fine with those.

Some generics are just plain bad. They’re clearly not repackaged brand name goods. If you find a terrible generic, take it back to the store. But don’t let it prevent you from buying another generic product.

Some generics really are just as good as brand name products, if not identical inside.

Which generic products do you suspect are really brand name products?

I’m willing to say with 98 percent certainty that:

  • Aldi brand (called "Happy Harvest" in this case) canned cut green beans are actually Del Monte cut green beans. Growing up on the Del Monte version, I feel like I can say with reasonable authority that this is the exact same product.
  • Flavorite peanut butter (purchased from Kuhn’s grocery) is Jif peanut butter. I’ve had other brands of peanut butters, and I’m quite certain that the Flavorite stuff I picked up for $1/ jar is Jif.


22 Responses to “Some generics are brand-name products in disguise”

  1. I think it’s funny when there’s a problem in food production, and there’s a recall, and then it’s made public which brand names & generics are actually the same product. The peanut butter recall a year ago let us know that Peter Pan peanut butter and Great Value (Walmart) generic PB is the same thing. Last summer, the french-style green bean recall divulged that the Aldi, Kroger, Cub Foods, Albertsons, and many others all come from the same factories (so, are the same product with different labels).

  2. Yes, they are the same. I have worked with frozen veggies and there is NO difference between the house brand and the national brand. They are all packed by co-packers on the same production lines…literally they just change to packaging. Save your $ and buy the store brands!

  3. Some generics aren’t great, but there have been many cases where I’ve liked the generic brand BETTER than the name brand. Better product, lower price. Can’t beat that!

  4. You are absolutely right! I was going to mention all of the recalls exactly as Joann did! I also know that “Bounty Basic paper towels” and “Food Lion” paper towels are made and packaged at the same plant too! There was also a recall on the Dinty Moore canned stuff and it included a whole slew of generics!

    I’d certainly rather pay for food and not advertising!

  5. Yes, for the most part they are all the same thing.

    There are some toiletries and household items that say on their labels that they do not sell their formulas to store brands(tylenol, listerine, etc.), but in the case of food they are all the same.

    I try out a variety of store brands from time to time and will stick with the ones that best replace the name brand. As for peanut butter we are true blue peter pan fans, so the walmart brand works for us or I stock up on peter pan when it is on sale at krogers.

    Take Care


  6. Winn Dixie’s store brand mac & cheese was NASTY. Publix mac & cheese is even better than Kraft mac & cheese – but only about 5 cents less per box. Same with their yogurt. Sometimes a minor sale on Yoplait at Publix will make it cheaper than their store brand.

    Walmart’s store brand things are usually quite good and a lot cheaper, and I buy those unless I can get a name brand cheaper with sales & coupons.

  7. Many products are absolutely the same. My dh works in a dairy. They process milk for several different companies. All the milk processed at their plant is the same, just put into different packaging for that particular manufacturer. They process milk under their own name and also for bigger manufacturers, but it is all the same milk, regardless of the packaging.
    I also read an interesting article in Consumer Reports a few years ago about film manufacturers (before digital was so common), that there were only four or five film manufacturers and they just put their film into whatever packaging they were shipping to, so Kodak could be making the generic film for say Acme or Rite Aid etc.
    I actually remember many, many years ago when I was growing up, the generic/store brand labels would say something like manufacturered by Kraft, etc. I guess the companies got smart when they realized many people would buy the generics because they knew they were manufactured by the larger companies.

  8. Yes, lots of brand name manufacturers also produce for private labels. I mean do you really think that kroger, or roundy’s or whateveryourgrocerystorelabel has a cheese making, or canning plant somewhere? Very few if any do. It just doesn’t make sense for them financially. That’s not their line of work, that’s not their core business. Brand name makers also win in this too, instead of having larger fixed costs or unused manufacturing capabilities they use it to produce for others under a different name.

  9. Our local dairy sells its brand name milk for $5.48/gallon and its “no name” brand for $3.48. Delivered by the same truck, even.

    I also know for a fact that Prairie Farms ice cream is Baskin Robbins. I ate only mint chip from Baskin Robbins my whole childhood, and cracking open the box of Prairie Farms was EXACTLY the same in flavor, color, and texture…down to the flakes of chocolate.

  10. I’ve been steering clear of ConAgra PB since the big scare. It may be dumb, but oh well.

  11. Isn’t it so fun when you discover a generic is actually Baskin Robbins ice cream?

    I didn’t realize that about Prairie Farms. I’m going to take your word on it and watch for it the next time I’m in the store!

    Oh, I <3 a good generic product.

  12. I love good generic products too. There are only a couple of things that I prefer name brands on. Somehow the quality of those particular items just doesn’t match up.

    Thanks for this great post!


  13. I have been on a graham cracker binge lately. I think all the generics are made by Nabisco Honey Graham.

    I feel all the generic cream cheeses are made by Philly.

    I have had some less than stellar experiences with some generic breakfast cereal but I eat the same ones daily so I know exactly what they should taste like.

    I also bought some generic mini pizzas that were blander than bland. Having several more in the freezer to use up I ended up doctoring them up with some extra pepperoni and cheese and they STILL were terrible.

    One thing I did hear on a news story yesterday about saving money on groceries and buying generic and store brands is that they reformulate them all the time so if you tried them once and didnt like them you might want to try them again at a later date if the price is right.

  14. My husband used to work for the makers of Allouette cheeses. If you have seen them in the grocery store they charge you $3.99 for 8 ounces of flavored cream cheese. they made tons of private label products that are sold for so much cheaper. The company he works for decided not to get in the private label business but a former business partner did many years ago and has made tons of money. So their decision cost them a lot in lost profts.

  15. My LCD monitor brand is “Chimei”, a chinese product, if you want say it that way.

    Heard however, that the monitor tube is actually being used by other monitors brand (which of course is more expensive)

  16. For those of you who have babies: The Target brand Diaper Ointment with Vitamins A & D has the exact same ingredients as the namebrand A & D ointment. It works the same and costs much less!

  17. i LOVE generics. i’m a generic queen. i keep clipping coupons, to be like all the frugal moms out there, but i keep finding generic to be even cheaper than the name brand products with coupons, especially because in MN, pretty much no place doubles coups.

    One thing i discovered today, however, was that Gaymont blueberry yogurt is WAY better than Walmart brand blueberry yogurt. Whew. i remembered enjoying Gaymont yogurt as a child, and so i bought some last week when it was on sale. i was feeding it to my son, and some managed to make its way into my stomach, and then i pretty much ate the whole bowl of it. i had to get more for David:)

  18. I have worked in the food and dairy industry for 15 years. I want you all to know that in general many private label products are the same exact product as the name brand. BUT, this is not always the case, depending on the industry/product, of course, the same manufacturer makes both products, but there are grade levels, ingredient changes (even if same on label, can be cheaper product), and overall quality levels in products made by one manufacturer. Especially in ice cream and vegatables, where ingredients or grade (size or seconds) are used.
    So, just because you see a recall of a product across several names from one manufacturer does not mean its the ‘exact’ same product. Espcially if its bacteria related, as many product varieties can be produced on the same manufacturing line.

  19. Great savings, I always look at the back to see if they have the same ingredients…;)

  20. I do know that this is true with pasta noodles. I had a friend who worked for a company and they packed pasta for all the brand names as well as store brand. A few months back they had the big peanut butter recall in my area and many of those were the same way.

  21. I believe that the store brand cola at Hannaford Supermarkets, in New England, upstate NY actually, is Coke. Does anyone know how I could find out for sure?

  22. Absolutly! I heard a few years ago that it costs Coca-Cola .25 cents to make one 20oz bottle of Disani Water (although now, it’s probably .50). That’s cap, bottle, water, purification, everything. They sell it on average around here for $1.50. They could easily sell the same 20oz to your local major supermarket for .50, Marketworld (fictional supermarket) will sell it using their bottle for .75 or a $1.00 and still make profit. That goes for food items as well, Great Valu (Walmart brand) potato chips I swear up and down is Lays, Kroger cheese bits… I am sure they are Cheez-it’s

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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